Monday, March 17, 2008

In Memoriam Will Howard

My good friend Will Howard has just died, following a long and brave battle with cancer.

Will has been in recent years a passionate advocate of the form of personal carbon trading known as Cap and Share [link to the web site he set up].

Unbelievably, on the day he died, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn announced that the UK would set up what Reuters' press release called "Domestic Carbon Emissions Trading". This represents a fantastic achievement for the whole movement to get such a trading scheme established.

Despite his cancer Will cycled to Brussels from his home in west Wales near Machynlleth last summer as part of this campaign.

It's to his great credit, that as the main UK campaigner for this simplified form of carbon trading, it is now firmly on the UK political agenda.

A lifelong campaigner

I will try to summarise what I know of his life. Will was a brave man who cared deeply about the state of the planet and its people.

I met him in 1997 when we began collaboration on two projects: a Green Solutions CD-Rom for the Centre for ALternative Technoogy, featuring the then new technology of Quicktime virtual reality, and the Palace of Amnesia, a prototype computer game I wrote and he directed.

At that time he was living on the Gower Peninsula near Swansea, running an Apple Mac design company.

With his wife Lyn and boys Sam and Dougie they had moved there from Bristol, where Will, who held a PhD in biology and was an ornithologist, had been a campaign officer for Amnesty International.

This was an early example of the strength of his campaigning zeal.

When my wife Zoe was severely ill in 1998 with a heart tumour, they put us up in their Swansea flat and took care of our own boys.

Their boys were and are home-educated, another example of Will's do-it-yourself approach to life - he and Lyn believe the education system lets children down.

The track of their life eventually led them to Machynlleth where I live, and where Will pioneered a campaign to have the Dyfi Valley becme a Fair Trade Valley - and he succeeded.

As a multimedia author he programmed the Carbon Gym for CAT, and designed the multimedia version of Peter Lord's The Visual Culture of Wales - three CD-Roms for the University of Wales.

This was not enough - he moved on to the most pressing matter of our time - mitigating climate change.

Will was not good at putting himself first. This was part of his selflessness.

In 2004 he had lower back ache which he attributed to poor computer use. In fact it was cancer but because he delayed seeing a doctor about it, so it was at stage 4 before being diagnosed.

He was given just about three months to live.

But he refused to give in, a mark of his courage.

He spent a year trying alternative methods of treatment believing the NHS way to be deeply flawed. They almost worked. But cancer is a persistent enemy.

With stubborn determination he survived a further three years - with the help of his wife, Lyn, and boys, always trying the latest remedies and treatments, from Switzerland and the States, supported by his GP Simon Morpeth. Latterly these included chemo and radiotherapy.

Perhaps he should not have made the bike ride to Brussels. But you couldn't have stopped him. He was determined to do it, because he loved the planet and believed this to be the best thing he could do with his life.

You couldn't ask for more.

The best tribute for him is that his work be carried on to its successful completion.

This is an inadequate memorial. I hope others will add to it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

New climate chief is government patsy

Lord Adair Turner, in day one of his job as chair of the so-called "independent" Committee on Climate Change revealed in a Radio 4 Today interview this morning that he is not going to give the government a hard time.

The committee is supposed to be a sharp-toothed watchdog criticising Government progress towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Under repeated questioning by John Humphreys, he said he would not query specific government policies, and supported the 'dream' (Naughtie's word) of carbon capture and storage (CCS).

CCS is not proven or costed. But the business world is counting on it to deliver business as usual.

So is the government. Business Secretary John Hutton said today power generation from fossil fuels would continue to play a "key role"

The Government is considering whether to give the go-ahead to build Britain's first new coal-fired power station in over 20 years, at Kingsnorth in Kent.

Hutton said: "Our leadership role is best promoted by the actions we take on capping emissions, carbon pricing and supporting the development of new carbon capture and storage technology. Not by gesture politics."

Gesture politics is something the government is very good at when it comes to fighting climate change.

Turner and Hutton are of the same mold.

Who is Turner?

Baron Turner of Ecchinswell is a British businessman, academic, a non-executive director for a number of business groups including Standard Chartered plc, United Business Media plc, Siemens plc, Paternoster Ltd.

He is a former Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), and a former vice chairman of Merrill Lynch Europe.

He knows a thing or two about business as usual, and has plenty of vested interests to pursue.

I would imagine that his discussions with fellow committee member Michael Grubb, the Chief Economist at the Carbon Trust, will be quite heated. Grubb is a lot more realistic about the dire straits we're in.

But when Turner eventually gets round to publishing his first report from the committee - not until December - what a sense of urgency - you can expect it to be as criticial as an interview with Michael Parkinson.

Let's be clear. Digging carbon out of the ground is something we should phase out asap. CCS is not going to work or be prohibitively expensive.

Friday, March 07, 2008

"The Energy Bill: In Search of Alternatives"

Places remain at an important parliamentary debate, which I can't get to but I urge anyone near London who can to do so.

It is taking place in two weeks time (Thursday 20th March 2008) in Westminster.

ONLY 8 PLACES REMAIN (reserve your place today - see below - names can be changed later).

Please click here to learn of the high calibre line-up or see below:


09:30 Registration and Networking

10:15 Chair’s Introductions
Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive, British Wind Energy Association (BWEA)

10:30 The Need for a Rational and Open Debate on the Future of Energy Policy
Malcolm Wicks MP, Minister for Energy (provisional confirmation)

10:45 Delivering the Energy Bill
- The energy supply side focus: planning and infrastructure;
- Delivering the three low carbon energy types - Renewables, Carbon Capture and storage and Nuclear;
- How is it all going to actually happen, and to what timescale?

Speaker tbc, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR)

11:00 The Future Role of Nuclear Power

- New nuclear as part of Britain’s future energy mix;
- The importance of nuclear power in fighting climate change;
- Securing the UK’s future electricity supplies though nuclear means.

Sir Keith Parker, Chief Executive, Nuclear Industry Association (NIA)

11:15 Critique of the Latest Government Thinking

- The challenges ahead
- Alternative models to the problems currently faced in regards to the search for alternatives.

Rt. Hon Michael Meacher MP, Former Environment Minister

11:30 Environmentally Friendly Energy Alternatives

- Investment in hydrogen production and fuel cells as enablers of a future renewable and low-carbon economy;
-Alternative solutions such as marine reserves and renewable energy;
- Threats linked to energy alternatives such as harmful radiation and proliferation.

Doug Parr, Chief Scientist, Greenpeace

11:45 Coffee Break and Networking

12:00 Questions and Answers Session

13:00 Lunch and Networking

14:00 Close

Another event which also may be of interest to you could be:

To book, click:
If you have any other queries, please call 0207 484 5224.